Rabbi Andrea Cosnowsky, Senior Rabbi, came to Congregation Etz Chaim in 2005 from Congregation Beth Adam in Loveland, Ohio. Ordained in 2004 at the Hebrew Union College, Rabbi Cosnowsky had been the Student Leader Intern for URJ Outreach Fellows Program for Conversion Certification HUC, and continues her outreach work with the larger community through her work with DuPage United.
Rabbi Cosnowsky's blog
My colleague, Rabbi Zoe Klein Miles, posted an amazing story a few months ago on Facebook, which inspired me to write this sermon. Her story is of repentance or Teshuvah in Hebrew - and it captures the very essence of which the High Holidays are about. When I read her family’s experience of the power of repentance, and the healing that comes from making right past wrongs, it moved me to tell the story tonight. It is the age old hope that we too will be inspired to heal through the process of Teshuvah.
I recently received this email. It said, “Dear Rabbi, we have decided to not renew our synagogue membership. I want to thank you for being a wonderful Rabbi. Unfortunately, I don't think the temple is a good fit for us as family- we never really felt like we fit in or belonged and so we don’t see the value in staying members. I don't think it's anyone's fault- we just never really 'clicked' with any committees, groups, or even through the Religious School. So, we are done with being members. Love, your former congregant.
In Pirke Avot it says, “Reflect upon three things and you will not come to sin. Know from where you came and where you are going and before whom you are destined to give account and reckoning. One who is wise sees the outcome of his actions.” (Pirke Avot 3:1) Maybe it’s because I’m on the precipice of a large number that ends in “0” on my next birthday. Or maybe it’s because - I lost a few good friends this past month - a reminder of the fragility of life.
There’s a central prayer in our High Holiday Liturgy called Avinu Malkeinu - Sometimes translated as, “our father, Our King” The story behind the etymology of the prayer is that one year, during a particularly bad drought, Rabbi Akiva was said to have followed Rabbi Eleazar into the ark and recited these lines, showing his praise for God and showing his humility about his place on earth. With his words, the proverbial rains fell and the earth was nourished.
When I was seven years old, my Congregation, Greenburgh Hebrew Center, took us to my first march to support the State of Israel. The photo of me holding one end of my congregation’s banner that came out in our regional newspaper, the Reporter Dispatch, sits proudly in my scrap book. At a young age, I marched in support of Israel.
The holiday of Shavuot is quickly approaching. On Shavuot, we say the words, "Z'man matan Torateinu," “time time of the giving of our Torah.” We say we were given Torah at Mt. Sinai, rather than it was received. That is, the Torah was a gift or a Matana in Hebrew. All we have to do on Shavuot is eat blintzes and other dairy foods and receive this holy gift from God. However, the name of the holiday sheds light on what our job is during the weeks that preceded it.
The Haggadah tells us that God redeemed us with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Following 413 years of slavery and affliction, God sent the plagues to our oppressors, and we were about to leave Egypt. However, the Pharaoh reconsidered his decision to set us free and sent the Egyptian army to annihilate us. This was the first stage of God's redemption.
Last November, we welcomed a Torah from Wheaton College which was donated on permanent loan and placed in our ark. Since that time, we have kept the Torah on display in our ark, and will be using it during the Bat Mitzvah of Willa Fidlow in the coming weeks. Torah scrolls are not meant to be used as museum relics, but rather, Torah scrolls live when we engage in study and use them.